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Miya Kaneko Kobayashi Oral History Interview, August 11, 2007

Oregon State University
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EU: Miya, to start with, can you talk about your parents and grandparents? You have an interesting background-- parents from Japan, and then they lived in Peru, and now you're in the United States. Can you start talking about, tell us about your grandparents.

MK: Okay. I don't know that much about my grandparents, but my mother's father and my father's parents, uh, my mother's parents and my father's parents, were from Fukushima, Japan. Um, the same area. And my grandfather - my mother's father [swallows] - went to South America to start a business. He started an import/export business. And, so he was away most of the time. And my mother had 00:01:00mentioned, "Gee, I'd like to go there." No one else in the family ever said that. So, at the age of sixteen she went with my grandfather and went to Lima, Peru, where the business was. And, um, she lived with a family to learn to do what women do [laughs].

EU: Uh-huh [laughs].

MK: And she trained to be a seamstress. And then, um, nineteen, my father [short pause], um, matched up a husband in those days, you know, the parents picked a husband, or, for you. And so, it was my father. and he went to Lima, to continue the business, and my grandfather went back to Japan.

EU: Do you know what year? About what year your, they first went to Peru? Your 00:02:00grand-, your grandf-...

MK: My grandfather? No. My m-, my gra-, my mother was born in 1914. And so she was sixteen when she went. But I don't know how long ago it was that my grandfather was there.

EU: Uh-huh. So your grandmother never came to Peru?

MK: No.

EU: No.

MK: No. Or the other children. My mother was the only one.

EU: Do you know why your grandfather decided, why did he go to Peru instead of Hawaii or the United States? The mainland or any other?

MK: Yeah. Like I said, I don't know the history of my grandparents.

EU: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

MK: Yeah. It's just different; I know. But they did keep their Japanese citizenship-- they did not, uh, become Peruvians. They were always Japanese Nationals.

EU: Could they have become Peru-, or, got, could...

MK: I don't know. I don't know. But in a lot of the South American Countries 00:03:00there were a lot of Japanese business people. You know, that did come from Japan. I think Brazil was very large one, but, um, Lima-- there was some there also.

EU: Uh-huh. In Fukushima, do you know what your grandparents, your family did? In...?

MK: My mother's side were farmers. And, uh, I think my father's side were also-- farmers. But he went, his side were more educators I think. They were farmers, but he did go to the University at Tokyo. And, uh, had a business degree. And I was told that's equivalent to like our Harvard here, so. And then he, uh, went 00:04:00to Lima to take over the business.

EU: Uh-huh. But theirs was an arranged marriage?

MK: Yes, it was. Yes, it was an arranged marriage.

EU: So had they seen each other then, before...?

MK: Oh, no. [laughs]

EU: So, he was...?

MK: Yeah, definitely. [laughs]

EU: Usually you have a picture bride, but he was like a picture... [laughs]

MK: No.

EU: 'Cause he's, he came, 'cause you mother was in Peru?

MK: Right, right.

EU: And then came over and they got married.

MK: Uh-huh, uh-huh. [short pause] Um.

EU: Do they ever tell stories about, you know, the voyages? Or how they, you know, what was it like when they first met.

MK: No. No. Growing up they were very busy. Um, my mother did some house work. My father, he did gardening in San Diego. And then he also taught, it's called 00:05:00Shi-gin. It's a Japanese signing. It's like our opera, I guess. And he taught that in, uh, Tijuana, San Diego, and some of Los Angeles. So he was gone a lot of the time. Did not spend very much time with my parents.

EU: Okay.

MK: So that would have been...

EU: This was your...

EU: ...your grand-...?

MK: No. My parents...

EU: Okay.

MK: ...for me growing up.

EU: Okay.

MK: So, I really never thought of asking them. I just know that it was an arranged marriage.

EU: Uh-huh.

MK: But I have, um, let's see...three brothers and a sister above me. And they were all born in Lima, Peru.

EU: Uh-huh. What were your, what were your parents' names?

MK: My father is Kakuaki Kaneko. And my mother's maiden name was, um, Otari 00:06:00Mori, M-O-R-I. And became Kaneko.

EU: Okay.

MK: Uh-huh.

EU: And, um, what were your brothers' and sister's names?

MK: Okay, this is interesting. Because my, uh, they all had Spanish names, and Japanese [laughs] names.

EU: Uh-huh. [laughs]

MK: And American names. [laughs]

EU: [laughs]

MK: So my brother's name was Carl, Carlos, Shoichi. Ichi is first son....

EU: Yeah.

MK: ...Kaneko. And my, uh, brother was, uh, Shugi, he never did get an American name. I don't know why. Shugi Julio Kaneko. And my sister's was Mary Carmen Momoko Kaneko. And my brother just above me is Taneo Fernando... [laughs]


EU: Yeah. [laughs]

MK: ...um, [short pause] [unintelligible]. And he didn't have an American name either. Kaneko.

EU: Okay.

MK: So they were all [sniffles] born in South America.

EU: Okay. Okay. Did they speak Spanish then?

MK: Yes. Yes, they all spoke Spanish. In fact, when we used to have, uh, reunions - The Crystal City reunions, Peruvian group - I did go with my mother twice. And it was so strange to hear them talking in Spanish. You know their faces are Japanese.

EU: Yeah.

MK: So, um, they would speak a little bit in Spanish also. And I know growing up we go to doctors or dentists my mother would always ask for someone that spoke 00:08:00Spanish, 'cause she could speak Spanish, but not English. [laughs]

EU: So, so she was really, well she was trilingual, but...

MK: Uh-huh.

EU: ...mainly bilingual in Japanese and Spanish.

MK: Right. Right.

EU: Wow.

MK: Uh-huh. And the food also growing up, I was very confused. I thought it was all Japanese food and I find out a lot of it was Spanish food. Like ceviche-- I thought all these, you know, all the years growing up that was Japanese food and I find out no, it's, you know, Spanish food. [laughs]

EU: [laughs] Okay. Yeah. Um, [short pause] do you know anything, did they talk about their business then? They continued with this ex-, import, export business?

MK: Yeah. In South America, [loud noises and bark] [Sighs] That's our cat and dog. They're trying to establish, because...


EU: Oh, yeah.

MK: Um, my mother told me that a lot of 'em, the men were from Japan and their wives were still in Japan. So they had a house where they housed all of 'em-- they all stayed in the same house. And my mom had people that worked for her that cooked for everybody. But they were just like part of the family. All the workers were part of, part of the family is what I understand.

EU: Uh-huh.

MK: From the pictures that I've seen and what, you know, they explained to me, that's how it was. And my father traveled a lot-- he went to Germany and different places. He bought glass. It was an import, export mainly of mirrors. And so he bought glass from different areas.

EU: Okay.

MK: And they were quite comfortable in South America-- financially they were quite comfortable. Um, my, uh, brothers and sister they each had their own 00:10:00maids. What a life they lived. [laughs]

EU: Yeah. [laughs]

MK: Spoiled kid. [laughs] And, uh, the stories they'd tell-- the boys used to say, "Yeah we could just say our name and go anywhere in a taxi in Lima." So, uh, they went from that, you know, when the war started they were taken by the FBI-- my father first. And, uh, their whole business was shut down. And everything was confiscated.

EU: Was there a Peruvian-Japanese community then? Like with...

MK: Yes.

EU: ...a Buddhist temple and schools and...

MK: No. No.

EU: ...in Lima?

MK: Uh-uh. No. There was a Japanese, little bit of Japanese community though. I 00:11:00don't know how many, but, uh... [short pause] No, because they all went to the Catholic school I think. Their children did.

EU: Uh-huh. Okay. Um, [short pause] could you talk a little but about the political background then? I mean, why was your father taken by the FBI?

MK: Okay. Apparently, our government made arrangement, with whichever countries in South America would cooperate, that if need be that their Japanese nationals would be taken from their country. And that was pre-arranged-- not all of the South American countries agreed to it. Lima, Peru was one of them that did agree to it. And so what happened was when the war started they rounded up the, um, 00:12:00what would you call it? Professionals and influential Japanese in the community. 'Cause Japan was willing to take back their professionals. And my father being a business, business man, he was one of them.

EU: Uh-huh.

MK: Because my mother's cousin wasn't taken, but my father was. And they were taken one by one-- the word would get out, "here they come again," and my father apparently just said, "I'm not going to go hide from house to house." And he just, you know, gave himself up. And then he was taken. And for about three months my mother, uh, didn't know where he was, or if he was alive. You know, he just didn't know. But what they were going to do was round these people up and use them in exchange for, uh, American prisoners of war. That was the reason for 00:13:00it. So, he went first to, uh Panama Canal. And apparently it was really bad there. I don't know what facility was there, but they, it was a work camp. They went there first. And then, um, went to Crystal City. And then after my father got to Crystal City they could bring their families.

EU: Uh-huh. Do y-, why would the Peruvian government agree to that? Do you think there was a certain amount of discrimination involved?

MK: Well, they were financially well-to-do. And so it was their gain, uh, their bank account was frozen their businesses were frozen. And it all became theirs. 00:14:00And the ironic thing was the President of Lima at the time was my sister's godfather.

EU: Boy.

MK: Yeah. And when my father went back the current President said, "That was before me. I don't know."

EU: Uh-huh. Hmm.

MK: Yeah. So, so he took all the money and the business. So it was a financial gain.

EU: Yeah. Okay. Hmm. So after three months in Panama your father was taken to Texas?

MK: We don't know exactly how many months,...

EU: Yeah. Okay.

MK: ...but it was three months after he left I think that he was in Crystal City, Texas and was able to tell my mother where he was and to have her come over.

EU: Uh-huh. What did your mother do in the meantime? Was she trying to keep the business together then?


MK: Um, [short pause] that was, I think, a hard decision. They did not pass it on to like her cousin or someone. He thought they would just shut it down and then he could come back, you know, and pick it up again. But they really could work the business because his bank accounts were all frozen.

EU: Frozen. Yeah.

MK: And he did try and go back. But because he was a Japanese national, um, he wasn't allowed to...

EU: Couldn't...

MK: ...come back.

EU: C-...

MK: He...

MK: ...just went to check on it, but he was not allowed back in Peru.

EU: After the war.

MK: Right. And Japan, he couldn't go there.

EU: Yeah. Um, [short pause] so for your mother with...

MK: Yeah.

EU: ...four children...?

MK: Uh-huh.

EU: ...on her own at that point. Must have been difficult time for her. Not 00:16:00knowing where her husband was.

MK: Yeah. I'm sure it was, but she had a lot of domestic help too. It became hard after, you know, she came to the U.S., 'cause then she had to do everything on her own.

EU: Right. When she went to Texas then, did the government pay and send the family or did she have to pay and organize that herself?

MK: No. Um, the government brought them over, the family over. And it was on one of those big ships-- I don't know what the name of it is. But I just remember the stories-- my mother said she was just so sick. [laughs]

EU: Uh-huh.

MK: Being down in the, you know, the ship. And, uh, they were allowed once a day to come up on board and walk around.

EU: Hmm.

MK: Uh-huh.


EU: Did she travel with many other people from Peru?

[In unison] MK: Um. EU: In the same situation?

MK: I think she did, yeah. She traveled with a lot of different families. Uh-huh. Because I think the yearbook said there were like six-hundred from, from Peru.

EU: Uh-huh.

MK: Uh-huh.

EU: Okay.

MK: Not just Lima, but the surrounding towns also.

EU: Uh-huh. And, um, in the book it said that the camp at Crystal City was a Justice Department Camp?

MK: [coughs] Yeah. It's different. The ten, they consider the ten regular camps an internment camp. And then there were justice camps that were under the F.B.I. and those were called justice camps.

EU: Uh-huh.

MK: And apparently Crystal City was the first family camp. The ten camps had 00:18:00like a, uh, mess hall, you know, where they all ate. Whereas Crystal City they were able to cook and eat by themselves with the individual families. So it was a little different set up. But also, there were Italians and Germans in the same camp.

EU: Ah.

MK: 'Cause see the government took a little bit of, of, uh, what other prisons-- German prisoners or, you know, Italian prisoners. So, yeah, it was a, it was a mixture.

EU: Huh. So was there then much interaction between the Italians and the Germans and the Peruvian Japanese?

MK: They each kind of kept their own...you know, their own little groups. But I just heard that like the, uh, uh, Peruvians were the seamstresses and the 00:19:00sewers. You know, they each had something to contribute.

EU: Uh-huh. The Germans and the Italians who were just the men, just prisoners of wars? There weren't families?

MK: You know, I don't know. I can't remember now.

EU: Yeah. Okay. [short pause] So you said it was difficult for your mother then-- she had to do her cooking and her cleaning on her own after...

MK: Yes. Yes, after all those years of having the domestic help. Um, so she said she learned a lot from the other, you know, ladies in camp. She learned how to [phone rings in background] make tablecloths. And, um, she knew [phone rings in background] sewing, you know, regular sewing [phone answered in background], but, uh, just busy work.

EU: Uh-huh.

MK: Yeah. [laughs]

EU: So you were born there in Crystal City is that right?


MK: Yes. I was born in Crystal City. So, when I asked my mother, well, you know, "What did you do? Where did you go?" She goes, "I was so busy washing your diaper."

EU: [laughs]

MK: But from what my brothers and sister said, you know, for young children it was fun. I mean, they got to play, they saw a lot of movies. And then there was like a pond they called it the swimming pool. So, for the kids it was a lot of fun.

EU: Uh-huh.

MK: [laughs]

EU: Do you have memories of the camp?

MK: Not at all. Not at all. I know from Crystal City we were one of the last families to leave Crystal City. Because everybody was underage. I mean, my brother was ten I think-- he couldn't work. And most of 'em went to Seabrook Farms in New Jersey. And it was like a camp there, you know.


EU: Uh-huh.

MK: They had housing and, and you worked the spinach-- the spinach business.

EU: Oh. Okay.

MK: And, um, but there was only my mother and father. The rest they would take up the profits feeding the family, but other families said they would pick up their share. And so, my parents and the kids were allowed to go to, um, Seabrook Farms.

EU: To Seabrook Farms. So how long were they in, in, uh, Crystal City all together? Do you know wh-, when they were...

MK: Uh...

EU: ...when were they moved from Peru into Crystal City? Do you know?

MK: Oh, immediately when the war started.

EU: Okay. So...

MK: Yeah.

EU: ...in forty-two through forty, yeah.

MK: Yeah. Right, uh-huh. Uh-huh.

EU: Okay.

MK: And then I was born in '45 and so I'd say they lived there probably '46?


EU: Oh. Okay. So they were there for a long time then?

MK: Yeah. Uh-huh.

EU: Do you know when they were in Crystal City were they able to leave the camp to go to nearby cities or...?

MK: Oh no.

EU: No, just...

MK: No.

EU: ...always just in the camps.

MK: Uh-huh. 'Cause that was a justice camp.

EU: Yeah, so.

MK: Uh-huh. They didn't have any freedom at all.

EU: Okay. Okay.

MK: But I know in camp there were also, oh and there were also Buddhist priest from Hawaii.

EU: Hm.

MK: 'Cause my mom used to tell me about him-- and we'd get postcards from him 'cause he'd always paint-, do calligraphy painting and my mother said that, uh, yeah. He was Reverend so-and-so and he went back to Hawaii.

EU: Huh.

MK: So anybody of influence that could cause trouble they, they rounded up.


EU: Uh-huh. Um, I know Kenge and his family they had to, this question, you know, the yes-yes, no-no question-- did that infl-...

MK: Uh-uh.

EU: ...because...you weren't, what am I trying to say? Did your parents have to, to, to...?

MK: I never heard of that, uh-uh, until Kenge told me about that.

EU: Okay.

MK: Well, they weren't given a choice anyway. And so, um [short pause], I know after the war they went to Crystal City. And then later...

EU: After the war they went to...?

MK: I mean, not Crystal, to Seabrook Farms. And they had to be sponsored in order to leave. They couldn't just leave, they didn't, you know, they weren't from here.

EU: Did they have an option then to either go back to Peru or go to Japan?

MK: Well, h-, my father tried-- he went to Peru and checked everything out, but 00:24:00there was-, there wasn't anything left for him and he wasn't allowed back.

EU: Okay. The Peruvian government.

MK: Right. The Peruvian government said, "You're not allowed here-- you're not Peruvian." Course Japan's not, I mean, they were so war torn then that, uh, they weren't allowed there either. And so they were in the United States as illegal aliens [laughs].

EU: Yeah. Uh-huh. So...

MK: Uh-huh.

EU: ...almost without country then?

MK: Right, they were.

EU: Yeah. Yeah.

MK: And, uh, I remember in San Diego, oh, what was that lawyer's name? That helped so many people. [calls to husband, Kenge Kobayashi] Kenge, what was that lawyer's name?

Kenge Kobayashi: Collins-- Wayne Collins,

MK: Yeah, Wayne Collins helped a lot of the Japanese. And, um, he helped a group of Peruvians. And we went to court. And I was the only citizen.


EU: Ah.

MK: And so, um, he helped them get, oh, I guess green cards. But their information said that they'd entered through Louisiana after the war. Which was strange, because how could I have been born?

EU: Yeah.

MK: Yeah. [laughs]

EU: Yeah.

MK: Yeah, but that's how they covered that up. And so, he did help, you know, help this group of Peruvians.

EU: Okay. Did, was he then the sponsor then? That, you said someone had to sponsor them?

MK: Oh, no. I'm sorry.

EU: In New Jersey? No, that was...?

MK: No, there was a family, um, that was citizens that agreed to sponsor us so we could go to San Diego.

EU: Oh, okay. So how long did the family stay in Seabrook then?

MK: They stayed there...I think just a few years. Yeah.


EU: And what did they do there? They wor-, they worked on the spinach first?

MK: Yes. Spinach, uh-huh. And, uh, my mother remembers that on the side that the older kids took care of the younger kids. And my mother would work and take a break and come over and feed me. And, you know, it was very difficult.

EU: Yeah. And did your father work on the farm also?

MK: Yes, he did. In fact, when I went to one of the reunions I was told a story by, by someone there saying, "Your father was really something." And so I said, "What did he do?" And, uh, he apparently...they were packing, I guess packing the spinach or the cans or whatever. And they would make this turn table go 00:27:00faster so you would work faster. And he finally jammed it. And everyone would tell him, "Don't, don't. Don't cause problems," you know. He said, "No," he says, "you come down here and you try this," you know. [laughs]

EU: Yeah. [laughs]

MK: And so that's how my father got to be known, but they finally made it a little easier on them. But he was a man that did speak up. Yeah. He was. And, uh, I remember him saying also about Mr. C-, you know, Wayne Collins the lawyer. He said, "I've got," at that time, yeah, he had seven kids, he goes, "if I can pay, it may take me a long time, but everybody is gonna pay." 'Cause you know Wayne Collins would do it for nothing. He was just such a gracious man. But, uh, my father had a lot of good qualities. Very fair man. I learned a lot from him.

EU: Yeah. Okay. So, um...a family in San Diego then, sponsored you?


MK: Yes. And I remember we were always reminded of that as a family. And, uh, they lived in Coronado. And we did a lot of things with them. We used to go grunion hunting and, um, very nice family. They had about four children. And, uh, they were indebted to these people for sponsoring them.

EU: Yeah. Was this a church group that sponsored them, or, sponsored you? Or just a family?

MK: No, just a family.

EU: Just a family that...

MK: Uh-huh.

EU: ...was interested.

MK: But it was part of the church-- there was a San Diego Buddhist church.

EU: Okay.

MK: And my mother got to know the minister and his wife in camp. And...he also 00:29:00went to this church I guess.

EU: All right. So it was people from that, the church then that sponsored you?

MK: Yeah.

EU: That sponsored your family.

MK: Uh-huh.

EU: Okay. And when was that again? Do you know?

MK: Um...well, when they left Crystal City. They couldn't get out of Crystal City. So it must have been like '47, '48.

EU: Okay.

MK: Yeah. I think that's about... I don't get the dates right. But, uh, something like that.

EU: I think I'll stop Part 1.

MK: Okay.

EU: Miya, can you talk a little bit about, um, the possibility of your family returning to Japan - to Fukashima - when they left Crystal City? Was that ever 00:30:00an option for them?

MK: Um, let's see. I was born in Crystal City and at that time my brothers and sister were all going to Japanese school instead of American school because my father thought we'd be going to Japan, we'd be going back to Japan. And the doctor that delivered me told my father that she had been there. And that, "Wh-, what are you going to do? There's a shortage of food. And it's not, it's not very good." And my father said, "Okay then, I'll just send the kids." And the doctor said, "Okay, if it came up that either their children were to eat, or yours. Who do you think they would pick?" And so then they realized they can't go back to Japan either. So they were-- they were a family without a country. 00:31:00They couldn't go to Peru-- they were refused there. And they couldn't go to Japan. And, uh, we did send packages to family in Japan after we settled in San Diego, but no, the option wasn't there anymore. And so we would, became illegal aliens and, except me. [laughs]

EU: Except you-- you were the citizen [laughs].

MK: Yeah, except me. In, in the United States. Yeah.

EU: And then this Wayne Collins, the lawyer Wayne Collins, helped your family get green cards.

MK: Yes.

EU: And become legal and...

MK: Right.

EU: Okay. Did y-, um, your brothers and sisters and your parents eventually become American citizens?

MK: They all did. Even my parents.

EU: When did that happen? Do you know?

MK: Um, they weren't allowed to until o-, oh Kenge knows the year-- I'm not sure what year it was. Except, that's right, my oldest brother never did. Yeah, he was the only one. He never did.


EU: S-...

MK: Everybody else did.

EU: S-...

MK: They took the classes and became citizens.

EU: So what did your older brother, what citizenship did he have then?

MK: Um...

EU: Or just...

MK: Peruvian. He was, he had a green card.

EU: He had a green card.

MK: Yeah. And he continued his green card. So that was very interesting. He didn't want to.

EU: Do you know why?

MK: I don't know. I don't know. He was ten at the time the war started, so maybe he harbored some bitterness that, you know, he had a pretty good lifestyle over there. And he, uh, once he came here he had to work very hard. I noticed it with my father-- I didn't know what he was like before in South America, but for, you 00:33:00know for an educator to have to start doing gardening, it was very hard on him. It was very hard on him. And he would see a business and said, "I, you know, I could do better than that." He wanted to do, have a business again, but, you know, Japanese weren't allowed to. And so, he was a very broken man. Very broken man. And then, um, I had a brother who served in Vietnam and he was killed in Vietnam. After that my father just was never the same. It's just like he just gave up.

EU: Hm.

MK: Yeah. My mother, on the other hand, she never showed any bitterness. I mean, never showed any bitterness. She's just a wonderful person. And I told her, "But Mom, look at all the things you had." She goes, "Yeah, but you guys would have been spoiled rotten." You know.

EU: Uh-huh.

MK: And she was okay. She just has such a good outlook. And we didn't know how 00:34:00poor we were until I was an adult. Um, every night I used to tell my mother, I says, "Well, why can't we buy groceries like everybody else for the whole week?" Well, we had to wait until my father came home with some money for us to eat dinner. And then we would, you know, she'd send us to the store to buy something. And she raised rabbits to make a little money. [laughs] There were times when we didn't have money coming in, so rabbit was our dinner, but we didn't know it. She didn't tell us. And I'd say, "Gee, you know, these chickens sure have short legs." [laughs]

EU: [laughs]

MK: She never told us we were eating our pets. [laughs]

EU: Oh. Yeah.

MK: But, uh, it was very hard on them. They had such a rough life.

EU: Yeah. You said your father was educated?

MK: Uh-huh.

EU: Where did he go to school then?

MK: He went to school at the University of Tokyo. As a businessman and that's 00:35:00why my grandfather chose him to continue the business. So even gardening or, or growing something he always picked up books, read it thoroughly. But what was interesting was, we never knew. I did not know my father's background until this other family from Japan came and they says, "Oh, we thought San Diego," you know, "there'd be just farmers. We didn't know there was anyone educated here." So my ears perked up and... I didn't know all this about my father.

MK: So...

EU: Hm. You've mentioned a few times that you've, there were reunions?

MK: Yes.

EU: Of the people that were in Crystal City.

MK: Uh-huh. There were Crystal City reunions and Crystal City Peruvian reunions. 00:36:00And I went to both. I went to one in Los Angeles with my mother. That was the Peruvian reunion. And then I went to a Crystal City reunion in Texas. And you know, I was just born there, but I welled up with tears and I think it was mainly thinking of what my parents went through-- how difficult it was for them. And then there was a, a man there that did the dedication. He was an architect and he erected the memorial stone that's there. And he told his story about he and his father and, uh, it was very interesting 'cause they took us on a bus - we went by bus - and they took us to the site. And it was very interesting. Uh-huh.


EU: So what's left now in Crystal City? Is it just a monument...?

MK: It's just a slab. Yeah, one building, just a cement slab. And just mainly the monument. Apparently the buildings were used later for migrant workers and the farmer were allowed to buy them. And we did go to one of the farms, but he wasn't home at the time. So, we didn't get to go in and look and see what their living quarters were like. But they had, in the past done, had done that. And I couldn't understand when we went to Crystal City why we were treated so well. I mean, the police escorted our bus, there was a parade, and there were chairs all ready for us. And, uh, I didn't understand it and I came home and - I wasn't very good at history - so Kenge explained to me that the Japanese rescued the 00:38:00lost bat-, Texas battalion.

EU: Oh, the 442nd rescue then.

MK: Uh-huh. and so they're just forever thankful. And that's why we were treated so well. So, that was nice though. It was nice just listening to stories.

EU: Uh-huh. So has, um, has there been like historical groups that record the histories? Or have done research?

MK: Uh-huh. Just like you're doing now. Uh-huh. While we were there at the reunion there was a gentleman who was following my mother around, because there were two elderlies-- my mother was one of them. And, um, she was just speaking in all Japanese and he just nodded his [laughs] head once and a while.

EU: [laughs]

MK: But he followed her around and talked. And her friend that was the 00:39:00minister's wife in camp, she was there also. And ten o'clock at night she agreed to go down and have some coffee and talk some more. She said, "I can sleep at home." You know. [laughs]

EU: [laughs]

MK: So my mother was just tired so we didn't, but she went down and talked some more. But they just followed them around and recorded whatever they had to say.

EU: Does your family have any pictures? Any photographs left from that time?

MK: A few. Not very many. Because they couldn't bring anything from South America. And camp, oh, just very few pictures we have in front of the building. That's about it. Yeah, because they weren't allowed to during camp.

EU: There was, for the Japanese-Americans, you know, who were in the camps here. 00:40:00They had the restitution movement, um, what am I trying to say? You know, the government apologized for the camp then.

MK: Oh yes. Yes.

EU: What's the political situation with the Peruvian Japanese? Is there any kind of apologies from the American government or...?

MK: That they're working on right now. They're still working on it. They did a letter and twenty-thousand dollars, you know, for the people that were in the camps. And the Peruvians they offered them five-thousand dollars and they said, "No," and gave it back. Um, but it's split, because my whole family got the twenty-thousand dollars. And I think it was because of Wayne Collins work. 00:41:00Because we were registered. I know my brothers and sister said go in under this and register your name in there. So I, all these years I thought it was because brother that was killed in Vietnam. How could they refuse us? And our family friend, Ted Sudan is the one that said, "No, no, no. There's for other reasons." And that's when I found out that because of Wayne Collins' work we were registered as legals, right?

EU: Uh-huh.

MK: Given a green card. That we were in the records. Whereas many of the other Peruvians, they did not do that. And so they weren't in the records. They were in camp, but they weren't registered in the government records. And so to this day they are still trying to get the government to treat them equally. And I 00:42:00think Senator Inouye is also working on something on that, on the Peruvians.

EU: Who was that?

MK: Senator Inouye, from Hawaii.

EU: Oh, senator from Hawaii.

MK: Yeah, I think he is working on helping them also.

EU: Has the Peruvian government then ever actually apologized for their...?

MK: Oh no. Oh no. Because it was before. You know. Yeah, it's not the U.S., so...[laughs]

EU: Yeah.

MK: They're not accountable for the government prior to theirs. [short pause ] But growing up in San Diego was very difficult after the war. I know the church we went to many times there were rocks thrown in the windows and fires started. 00:43:00Myself it was difficult because - I was in Kindergarten - I had to wait 'til my brother in junior high came by to pick me up. And there was a, I must have been in...yeah, I was in Kindergarten and he must have been in fifth or sixth grade, I don't know. But he would push me off the swing and say, "You Jap." And I remember crying, but I had to wait for my brother. At least once a week I'd have to do that. And then San Diego was a navy town. And so it was very hard-- I was called Jap all the time. Yeah, it was hard after the war.

EU: Did you understand why they were doing that? Or how...?

MK: Uh-huh. And I remember after high school I was going to be a hairdresser so I went to beauty college. And the kids we road together-- we carpooled. And I 00:44:00remember one of 'em saying something about Japs. And I said, "Don't say that. That offends me." They go, "No, you're not one. You're American." And I says, "No, but I am Japanese. And that offends me." So some were saying it unknowingly and other, you know. But we all felt it in different ways. I know my brother just above me his neighbor gave him a really bad time. This was after he had children and he had his own home. And finally he went over and he talked to him and he goes, "I don't know why you don't like me." And the neighbor said, "Because you guys killed my son." And this was WWII. And so he told him about my brother that was in Vietnam and he says, "We lost someone also." And after that 00:45:00they were the best of friends. So sometimes it's not, you know, not misunderstandings, but educating people, too. And it was hard because Japanese-Americans, because they look, as they say, "you look like the enemy," you know. It's real hard that, they do say, they say, "you guys." They don't realize that at the time I had never been to Japan. I didn't know what Japan was like. I didn't know how my people acted, you know. I just know I was born in America. But because we looked the same, it was very hard that we were not separated. And yet, the people in Japan did not accept us either. Because we left the mother country. [laughs]

EU: [laughs]

MK: So, so it was hard.

EU: Yeah. In San Diego, where did you live? Was there a Japanese community? Or 00:46:00were you...?

MK: No. Huh-uh. Like in Los Angeles you see all these little groups?

EU: Yeah.

MK: No. We were all over. Um, there were farmers in Chula Vista. The family that sponsored us was across the water in Coronado. We lived about a mile from the church, 'cause we used to walk over to the church. No, there was not a Japanese group. But we did get together on Sundays, you know, at church, and, uh...

EU: Was this a Christian church or a Buddhist church?

MK: Buddhist church.

EU: Buddhist church.

MK: Uh-huh. And they would have Japanese movies there and... So there was a little community there that did get together, but we did not live all together.

EU: Uh-huh. Did you have Japanese super markets or grocery stores?

MK: Yes. Uh-huh. Yes we did.

EU: So you got...

MK: Uh-huh.

EU: And what did your father do then? Or what, your, what kind of work did he do then?

MK: He did do gardening. I remember we all helped work at the church also. I 00:47:00mean, so many children to feed. And my mother did a little house work. And I didn't know it, but farmers brought us food, uh, friends also brought us clothing. I didn't know this 'til I grew up, because, oh I know, I remember [sniffles] we moved and we got a house and mother had a big freezer. And my father went fishing a lot. And he would feed practically all of San Diego, you know, the fish. I told my mom, "Why don't they keep it in their own homes, you know?" And she told me, she goes, "These are the people that helped us-- that gave us your shoes and clothes." So, that was the reason.

EU: Yeah. Okay. [short pause] At the beginning of the interview you talked, was 00:48:00it your grandfather that did the singing?

MK: My father.

EU: Your father. Okay. So your fath-, could you talk about that again?

MK: It's called shigin. And I call it the Japanese opera like. [laughs]

EU: [laughs]

MK: But, um, he learned it in camp. They had a group that did shigin. And when we went to San Diego he taught it. He had classes, he taught the shigin. He even went to Tijuana and taught it. And I just remember in the car I'd roll up the window-- I didn't want anyone to hear him. Because it's not like, you know, like opera you can't understand it. But yes, he was a teacher. He taught.

EU: And you said he wasn't home often then?

MK: No, because at nights, I think that's when he connected to who he really 00:49:00was. And so he would teach his classes two, three times a week. And then he would go Tijuana. Growing up we never played ball and, you know, did things too much as a family. We did go up to the mountains, Palomar Mountains during the day, um, we'd have picnics by the ocean. And my father did go to the boys' wrestling matches and things, but not play in a, you know, mingle like they do now with kids.

EU: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. So you went to high school. And then you went to beauty school?


MK: Yeah. To be a hairdresser. I got married. And, uh, so I grew up in San Diego, [short pause] and I got divorced. Moved to Los Angeles where my brother and my sister were. And raised my three children. And I met Kenge in, um, '79, before '79-- we got married in '79.

EU: Okay. What were your children's, what are your children's names?

MK: My eldest son is Darrell Osaka. And he's, um, I think forty-two now. And my other s-, oh, let me see... And he lives in Portland. And he does sales for computer software, something like that. Something in the computer field. And then my second boy is forty. They're all two years apart. He's in Las Vegas. His name is Mark. And he's a homicide detective there. And Lori, my daughter, is 00:51:00thirty-eight. And she finally finished school. She's a professor at Saint Anselm in New Hampshire. And they're all married. They all, let's see, Darrell, my eldest, has a daughter. Mark, my second boy, has three children from his wife's previous marriage, and then one of their own. And then, uh, Lori and John, they don't have children yet.

EU: Okay. Did your children have Japanese names?

MK: Yes. They all have Japanese names. Darrell's is Kenge. It means second son, but I liked the name so I picked it anyway. And Mark is Akida -- I named him after my younger brother. And Lori is Kimiko. I just liked the name. So they all 00:52:00have an American name and a Japanese name.

EU: Uh-huh. Um, your, wh-, are your parents still living?

MK: No. They're not. No. They've passed away.

EU: They've passed away. Okay. Um, okay. And so you said you met Kenge? In...?

MK: I met Kenge in Los Angeles. And, um, at the time I remember telling me my father, 'cause I'd been single a long time, ten years - and I said, "You know, I just can't meet anybody." And he told me, you know, "He'll come up. You don't have to go looking for him." And a year later I met Kenge. He said what I was do-, my father said what I was doing wrong was I was looking for someone my age. 00:53:00And he says, "Someone your age is very busy with their career." 'Cause I was divorced, right? So he says, "They're either busy with their career or they're married." One or the other. And so, um, "It'll have to be someone older." And I thought, "Ah, I don't want anybody older," you know. [laughs] And look who I married! [laughs] 'Cause Kenge and I are nineteen years apart. So we got married, he has seven children, and I have three. [laughs] So when we got married there were eight kids at home. [laughs] Yeah, his youngest one was in fourth grade and his oldest was twenty-something at that time. Yeah. So it was very interesting.

EU: Yeah. So not only you married him, but you then had all of a sudden this large family to...


MK: Yeah. That was difficult. It was really hard. 'Cause I was still young. I only knew about children as old as mine, you know. I didn't know about teenagers. It was very difficult, but we managed. Got through it. And we're still together. [laughs]

EU: Did you continue working then?

MK: Yes, I did. Uh-huh.

EU: As a hairdresser or what were you...?

MK: No, I had to stop that, because, you know, lot of women work and they were their hair done at night. And being a single parent, nighttime is when your children want you at home. Want you to tuck 'em in. And it was too difficult. So I started working in an office for my brother, for his insurance company. And then I continued working in an office.

EU: So you had a full-time job and raising eight kids at home.

MK: Uh-huh. But, um, they all helped. Oh, definitely. They paired off and cooked 00:55:00meals. And depending on who was cooking we went out or didn't [laughs]

EU: [laughs] Yeah. Where did you live in Los Angeles?

MK: We lived in Arcadia. And we had a pretty big house. There were two kids to a room. And one time I had to have the air conditioning man come out and he was working on the stairs and kids were going up and down. Finally he goes, "How many kids live here?" [laughs]

EU: [laughs]

MK: But, uh, it had a pool and it was a nice house. Kids grew up there. And then Kenge was ready for retirement and I wanted out of California.

EU: Why was that?

MK: Well, at forty-two I had a heart attack.

EU: Oh, wow.

MK: It was the job and everything was a bit stressful. And Kenge was laid off 00:56:00and it just became too much for me. And so, the kids were all grown, they were all out of the house. And I said, "We need to leave." So we came to Oregon.

EU: How did you choose Eugene?

MK: Yeah, I get asked that a lot. Because we don't know anybody in Eugene-- we have no family here. When I had gone to Hawaii I had met some people from Eugene. And they were telling me how nice it was. So we read up on it. And the university-- there would be plenty to do because of the university and I asked Kenge if we had ever been to Eugene. He goes, "No. I drove through it when I was stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington. That's about it." And I said, "Well, we can't take much with us, because we're going from a big house to a smaller house anyway." So we gave the kids and got rid of everything but I think, uh, our bed. 00:57:00And so we sent it up. And we said, "Well," you know, "we don't know anybody, if we don't like it we'll go on to Portland." And so that's how we ended up in Eugene. We just picked it out by word of mouth and here we are.

EU: Yeah. And so when did you move here?

MK: We moved here in January, '89.

EU: '89. It's almost twenty y-...

MK: Getting close to it. Yeah. Yup, I remember that, because it started snowing. I had never seen snowfall. It was beautiful.

EU: And you never continued on to Portland then?

MK: No. I felt like I came home. I mean, I felt like, "Wow. This is where I was meant to be." I didn't like Los Angeles at all. I didn't care for California.


EU: Why do you think Eugene was so comfortable for you?

MK: You know, I don't know. I just felt like I had come home. Maybe it was the peacefulness after I had been sick. I don't know. I just knew this was my home. And I was worried about Kenge. You know, "Did you want to go back to Los Angeles?" And no, he likes it here too. And he's been, you know, really enjoying the community. And he wanted to offer his talent, which he's done with the Asian-, Asian Celebration, and the JAA so...

EU: Uh-huh. Have you always lived in this house then? This same house?

MK: Uh-huh.

EU: In the, amongst the trees.

MK: Yes.

EU: Yeah. In south Eugene.

MK: Uh-huh. Yup, this is the first house. We stayed in an apartment. And I 00:59:00started working and Kenge kept talking about this house. But he says, "It's so dark," and, you know. And so finally I said, "Let's look at it. Because you talk about it all the time." So the floors were real dark and I told him, "You know, it's cosmetic. We'll lighten the floors, lighten the carpets." And here we are.

EU: Yeah.

MK: Yeah. I love it here.

EU: Yeah. Okay.

MK: [unintelligible] really calm and peaceful. And he wants to stay here. Kenge's, what, 81 now. And I was getting concerned with the stairs. But he said, "No. That's my only exercise." So as long as we can we'll stay here.

EU: And where do you work? You contin-, you're continuing to work now?

MK: Yes. Uh-huh. I'm not, I don't qualify for retirement yet. I can't retire yet.


EU: Okay.

MK: I work at Papé. And they are a family company that has aircrafts that they rent out. And large equipment, trees, uh, construction. I first worked for Chef Francisco, but they were bought out by Heinz. And so I had to leave that job. And then I went to Papé and I plan to finish up there. Hopefully in four more years. [laughs]

EU: Four more years and then you'll retire huh? [laughs]

MK: Yes. I could join Amy and everybody else.

EU: Yeah. Do you see your children very often?

MK: Uh-huh. Yes I do. Um... I was in Las Vegas last month and my granddaughter just left here last week and she's up in Portland now. But yes, we do. And I go back east to spend time with my daughter. We went through a difficult time when 01:01:00my son in Las Vegas was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And, uh, but he's been six years cancer free. so we've been very, very lucky. He's my miracle child.

EU: Well, that's good.

MK: Yeah. I've got wonderful children. They're just great.

EU: Good. I think I'll, this is the end of Part 2.

EU: Miya, you had mentioned that Kenge has been involved with the JAA and various Japanese-American organizations here in Eugene. What about your own involvement in the community here?

MK: Um. When we left Los Angeles after my heart attack I didn't want to do a 01:02:00whole heck of a lot. I wanted to take care of myself. My goal was to make me well. And so I didn't get as involved as Kenge did. Right now though we do have a quilt group of local ladies and we get together on that. And I'm really enjoying that. But it's hard to do a lot when you're working too. But you know, other people work and can do it, but I figure Kenge's doing his bit so. And I help him with some of that. And other than that I just do the quilting and that's about all I can handle. [laughs]

EU: Uh-huh. I noticed some of the quilts, the hangings. Did you make this one behind you?

MK: This one I made for my sixtieth birthday. And we had a get together with my children and my two sisters. And I made each family one and I made myself one. We always forget ourselves when we're making something. And we had a real good 01:03:00four days in Lincoln City. And my children said, "What do you want to do? For your big six oh." And I said, "I just want everybody together." And so we had a wonderful time.

EU: Did all of the ten children come?

MK: No. Just my side of the family.

EU: Just your side of the family.

MK: Uh-huh.

EU: Okay. What kind of quilting do you do?

MK: My love is hand quilting. I started to do machine quilting. And, we have a second bedroom and that's where I did it. And Kenge would always come up and, "Are you almost done?" You know? It's not that we sit and talk a lot, but he just wanted me next to him. So that's when I started hand quilting. And I found that I really enjoy it. And that, uh, relaxes me. And so in the evenings I would do hand quilting or knitting. I can't just sit and watch TV. And so that's what 01:04:00I did.

EU: Do you quilts have mostly a Japanese theme? Or...?

MK: Uh-huh. Somewhere in there I try to add a little bit, um, I may do a little hand stitching or the pattern. They're not all, but I try to have some sort of a Japanese influence in there.

EU: Uh-huh. And do you make hangings and bed-c-, bed quilts or...?

MK: I do both. I'm trying to slowly switch over to smaller projects. [laughs] It's hard getting down on the floor and working on it at the end. A lap size, lap size and wall hangings is mainly now what I do. [laughs]

EU: And is there a group of women that you do the quilting with?

MK: I take a couple classes. I take a appliqué class, which is once a month. And then we bring in our blocks at the next month, the following month. And, uh, 01:05:00the teacher helps us, you know, gives us pointers on how to better our hand work. And then I also have a, um, block of the month that I got involved in. A little too much having two classes, but... And so that's how I, I've always liked taking classes because then you will do the work. Instead of it just being there. But there's always a birthday, a baby, a wedding, something. And so that's really kept me busy.

EU: Uh-huh. Is there a group of Japanese-American women who do quilting?

MK: Yes. And we try to get together once a month. There's about eight of us. And, uh, we're not real disciplined. [laughs]

EU: [laughs]

MK: We talk and eat a lot. And do a little quilting. [laughs] But we have done a 01:06:00couple projects for the foundation, the AAFO. And we donated one, when was that, last week or two weeks ago.

EU: Yeah.

MK: Did you go to that?

EU: I didn't.

MK: You didn't. 'Cause I didn't see you there.

EU: That was the Asian-American...

MK: Foundation.

EU: ...Foundation. Okay.

MK: Organization I think. And they do, um, let's see, uh...scholarships. Yeah, they do scholarships to kids. And so we donated the quilt and auctioned for five-hundred dollars. It was a wall hanging. That was real exciting.

EU: What do you think about the community in Eugene. I mean, after World War II, you know, there were no Japanese-Americans here, in Eugene anymore. And so with, 01:07:00you know, as people moved in, like you and Kenge and other people. And then like Kenge was involved with so many of these organizations. Do you have a feel about the community here in Eugene?

MK: To me it was very similar to San Diego. There was a comment made to my parents once - a couple that came from Tokyo, Japan and they come visit my parents about every three, four years - and they say you folks have kept the best part of the Japanese tradition. Because when they came here whatever they remembered they continued it. Whereas in Japan the kids have become very Americanized, traditions are looser. Whereas in San Diego they had tried to continue, you know, the old ways so to speak. And I find that in Eugene it's the 01:08:00same type of thing. We're trying to remember our roots and our traditions-- keep the culture so our children and grandchildren would be exposed to it. They work very hard at that, you know, having the New Years, the food, um, the Obon, the clothing, and the various holidays. And I think it's wonderful. Because to me it's just like San Diego again. We were a very small community of Japanese-Americans in San Diego, as well as Eugene. Whereas Los Angeles, they're just big. But I really feel like San Diego again.

EU: And it seems also just the friendships, the close friendships that have developed, you know, through these organizations.

MK: Uh-huh Yeah. It's very nice.


EU: Okay. [short pause]

MK: You can't take her home [referring to the Kobayashi's dog]. [laughs]

EU: Yeah, I was gonna say, "I love your dog."

MK: I know. She's so affectionate.

EU: We're talking about your new...miniature poodle?

MK: Yes.

EU: What is her name?

MK: Her name is Little Bit. And she's about eight pounds. And she's a rescue dog and we lost our dog last December. She was a little Pomeranian. And she died during the night Christmas Eve. And she was about eight years old. And, um, so we've been looking for a dog since. And we got Little Bit two weeks ago. [laughs]

EU: Just two weeks ago.

MK: We just got her, uh-huh.

EU: And she's learning to live with your cat?

MK: Oh yeah. They're trying to adjust. [laughs]

EU: Yeah. Yeah. Is there anything else we should talk about? Is there anything 01:10:00else you would like to add?

MK: [pause] No. I just always think about my parents and what a difficult life they had after they came to the United States. The adjustments they had to make. I just give them so much credit. I remember after my father passed away my mother showed me in his wallet where he had written out O-N-E for one. You know, to write checks he had to know all this. And so that was like his template, you know, to copy from. Um, it was just very hard for him. And then older brothers and sister, my brother - because he, you know, spoke English - he had to take care a lot of the family affairs for my parents. I just remember it was very difficult for them. And yet they were very good about not always saying, you 01:11:00know, "We can't afford it," or, "we're so poor." I didn't know how little we had until I was an adult. They just, they kept that from us.

EU: Yeah. Do you remember them in, with this, the new memorial that was just dedicated downtown Eugene?

MK: Yes I did. Our family, my sisters and brothers, the ones that are left, we did purchase a stone and put their name.

EU: So the name of your parents?

MK: Yes.

EU: Kaneko?

MK: Yes.

EU: I'll have to look for that then.

MK: Yeah.

EU: Yeah. Were you involved with that committee or...?

MK: I went with Kenge, um, then. Kenge doesn't always speak up for himself and it's a little difficult for me, 'cause I don't want to speak for him. So, there, you know, there was a lot of difficult times in it, too. Like anything else you attempt to do. And so, I would stay away from a lot of it so he would handle it 01:12:00himself. But I'd help whenever he need it. Supported them whenever they needed.

EU: Are there any other Peruvian-Japanese in this area? That you know of or...?

MK: No.

EU: Okay.

MK: A lot of people that were in San Diego and Los Angeles - friends of my families - I didn't know it went back to Peru until I was an adult. You know, I just kn-, I thought they were just community, fellow community members. And then, you know, stories would come up here and there. "Oh yeah, they were in camp with us." What's sad is a lot of times when people meet instead of saying, you know, "Where did you live?" It's like, "What block did you live in? What 01:13:00camp did you live in?" And for young children they hear camp and they think, "Oh, that was fun."

EU: Yeah.

MK: And I remember when Kenge and I just got married and he would talk to people and they would go, "Oh, so what camp were you in?" And then if it was the same camp, "What block did you live on?" I thought that was just so sad. You know.

EU: Yeah. [pause] Yeah. Okay. All right. Thank you, Miya.

MK: Thank you.